Advertising for the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) has increased by nearly 4,500% since 2018, with funds mainly directed toward recruiting teachers, according to the ALSDE.

According to state records, ALSDE paid $45,349.95 in total advertising in 2018. The funding increased to $67,410 in 2019, dropped to $61,765 in 2020, jumped to $900,527 in 2021, and topped at $2,061,403 in 2022.

According to Dr. Michael Sibley, the communications director with the ALSDE, the increase in advertising spending is due to campaigns designed to recruit and retain more teachers.

Alabama does not currently track teacher vacancies. However, data from the Alabama Commission on the Evaluation of Services (ACES) shows the state has a 63% total teacher retention rate, and over 50% of first-time teachers leave their teaching positions within three years.

Among many things, ALSDE has endeavored to address retention and recruitment issues through the We Teach Alabama campaign, which is designed to attract educators to work in Alabama's public schools. The site boasts of the benefits of being an Alabama teacher, such as offering $17,500 or more in student loan forgiveness, health benefits, retirement plans, and competitive salaries for STEM teachers, who can make up to $20,000 more per year to teach math or science in hard-to-staff areas of Alabama.

ALSDE has employed many tactics to address the recruiting and retention issues in the state. It has hired staff members exclusively designated to recruit educators, waived in-state assessment requirements for those transitioning to Alabama from other states and expanded advanced pay options for certain degrees, all of which Sibley believes has impacted the state.

The ALSDE also made November "Thank Alabama Teachers Month," designed to encourage appreciation for educators in the state.

Students and families were also encouraged to nominate their favorite teacher to win tickets to the Iron Bowl.  

"It's a way that we recognize the integral importance of teachers in the whole mechanism of education," ALSDE Vice President Wayne Reynolds said. "You know, there are leaders, and there are board members, but the crux of the whole program is the quality teachers and the judgment that they put forth. I've been in education 50 years, and that's an integral part of my life. Teaching is not a  job, it's a profession, and that's what we recognize teachers as being."

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